Southern Illinois University, Center for English as a Second Language
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Southern Illinois University, Center for English as a Second Language

The Center for English as a Second Language (CESL) was established in 1966 and has many years of experience teaching English to international students interested in pursuing an education in the US and in improving their language skills for personal or professional reasons. The center is housed within the Department of Linguistics, where it benefits from current research and methodology in the field of second language acquisition, the youthful enthusiasm of linguistics TAs and rigorous academic standards.

CESL is hosted by Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIU), which has been providing students with a traditional American university experience for nearly 150 years. This is a research university with a small college atmosphere, and students have access to the best of everything – top experts in their fields, research opportunities, more than 200 majors and minors, and an alumni network that spans the globe.

All of CESL’s full-time classroom instructors are members of the university’s faculty and hold master’s degrees or doctorates in Teaching English as a Second Language or a related field. Most have had extensive teaching experience, and many speak a second language and have had overseas experience. CESL is fully accredited through the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA) and is a member of the University and College Intensive English Programs (UCIEP) and American Association of Intensive English Programs (AAIEP), organizations that represent the top ESL programs in the United States.

The center operates seven graded intensive courses, covering General English, Advanced English, English for Academic Purposes and Graduate Student English. Classes meet for 20 to 26 hours per week, with a total of four eight-week terms held during the academic year and two six-week terms during the summer. CESL also has a foundational zero-level program available on an as-needed basis. Initial course placement into the seven-level program is determined by performance on the Institutional TOEFL test given to incoming students.

Within a given program, students cover a comprehensive range of course material, beginning with core reading, writing, speaking and listening classes and going on to include specialized materials such as TOEFL Preparation, Grammar and Poetry, Projects, Newsletters, Creative Speaking, Advanced Communication, Advanced Pronunciation, Culture Through Media, Communication Strategies and American Culture. Discussion plays heavily into class work.


Pic: CESL student group.

CESL also has three media centers where students create and post to their weblogs. Two international student advisors assist students with immigration, culture shock and with admission into undergraduate or graduate programs at SIU or another university. These advisors are qualified to assist students with other situations as they arise.

Students enjoy access to the broader scope of campus facilities, including the following:

Transition to the American university system
SIU offers conditional admission to all international undergraduate applicants and to some graduate applicants. Undergraduate applicants who meet all admission requirements except for those related to English language are granted conditional admission. These students will be given a TOEFL test upon arrival. If needed, they can enroll in the intensive English program on campus at CESL for a minimum of eight weeks. The applicant will be given FULL admission as soon as the English language requirements are met. Graduate applicants who meet graduate requirements and are accepted by their departments may receive conditional admission, as well.


Pic: Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

Students can gain admission into undergraduate programs at SIU with less than a 520 TOEFL score if they successfully complete Level 6 and score at least 500 or above on the TOEFL. In some special cases, the university occasionally releases students who have done well in the CESL program but score less than 500 on their TOEFL exam.  Students in Levels 5 and 6 can also sign up to observe SIU classes.

Students who have not taken the TOEFL before will be given the opportunity to take it during their first week at the center. The institutional TOEFL exam is given the week before SIU classes begin. Those who score over 520 will be able to proceed to university coursework. Those who score less than 520 will be placed into CESL classes, according to their TOEFL score.


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